Frank Spears - the man shackled by some with the stormwater utility responsibility - makes no apologies to his constituents: the monthly fee has been put to good use in Columbia County.
Steve Brown speaks recently during a candidate forum sponsored by the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Brown is running for Columbia County Commission in District One.
Photo by Chris Thelen
"If there is a better way, I'm certainly willing to listen," he said, thumbing a list of more than $700,000 in stormwater work.
Spears was just one member of the county commission when the utility was approved almost two years ago, but he's become the lightning rod for scrutiny. And, he said, he's been left alone.
"No one else has seemed to want to come out and say we all voted for this," he said.
Perhaps it's because he's been outspoken on the issue. Perhaps it's his sometimes abrasive manner. Perhaps it's just Frank.
"I will tell you something what you don't want to hear, but it is the truth," he said.
Maybe so. But it's all of that that has placed him in a fight for his seat on the county commission.
Planning Commissioner Steve Brown - bolstered by the support of current Commission Chairman Jim Whitehead and former Commission Chairman Pete Brodie - is running against Spears.
"This is where my heart is," said Brown, who's family has been in Columbia County since shortly after World War II. "That is what is motivating me."
Politically, Spears and Brown are not that far apart. For example, both think a long look at the county's chamber of commerce is in order.
Spears: "Are we getting 100 percent of the value for the $150,000 that is going downtown (for the chamber of commerce) ? I think not."
Brown: "We have to make sure we are fairly represented. It's got to be a two-way street."
They also agree on the success of the Evans Town Center ordinances and the importance of the tree ordinance.
"I've been pushing for that for four years," said Brown.
Predictably, many of Brown's concerns are development-based, like the need to revitalize Martinez.
"I don't want it to evolve into a Gordon Highway," he said. "This is the gateway, in a way, to Columbia County. I think it needs to be more attractive."
He said he also wants county leaders to take a hard look at work planned for North Belair Road.
"That's money we can spend to make Washington Road (between Belair Road and Ronald Reagan Drive) safer," he said.
Spears, meanwhile, beams about the Evans-To-Locks Road bike path, the county's courthouse annex and the massage parlor and video poker ordinances - all things he points to as signs of success from his first term on the commission. He mentions the planned main library as one of the things he's most looking forward to in coming years.
"The library has been one of my dreams," he said.
But it's another thing that he prides himself on: being accessible. His phone number is in the book and he holds regular public meetings with his constituents. And he doesn't mind if that accessibility is considered over-the-top by some other commissioners.
"People don't elect you to be complacent," he said.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.